A Birthday Dress from Ayna in Selimiye, Turkey

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My four-month stay in Turkey started with a glitch — but the glitch turned into regaining a wonderful friend and a nice dress for my birthday.

When I was a student at Middle East Technical University, my classmate Aysun’s house was right across ours. We did many of our junior and senior projects together with many sleepless nights and gallons of Turkish teas. We were also together in Buffalo for about a year while pursuing our graduate degrees. The last time I saw her was in 1983.

Before going on my adventures in Turkey, I wanted to find my high school and college friends. Although I have a lot of negative thoughts about Facebook, I could not find my friends without it. And the first person I found was Aysun and the rest came easily after that.

So, here is how it worked out perfectly:

I call Aysun two days after I arrive Istanbul. We have a four hour lunch at Saray Muhallebicisi at Bagdat Street on the Anatolian side. We just scratch the surface of catching up with everything in each other’s lives. We still have hundreds of hours to talk. Really, the old friendships never die. Aysun offers me to stay with her for three months. After retiring, she changed her life completely. She now runs a boutique in Selimiye, Mugla. She splits her time between Selimiye and Istanbul. She says she will be in her Istanbul apartment for only a few weeks and then will go to Selimiye for the summer. That is so nice of her, I say. But, I already paid my rental and cannot get out.

Then everything changes overnight – the night of my lunch with Aysun. I face a big trouble with the place I stay. With one email request, airbnb.com refunds my money. I call my nephew to pick me up and help me with my luggage. I wake up my landlord and tell her I am leaving. She closes the door behind me with “I-cannot-believe-what-is-happening” eyes. That day, I move into Aysun’s apartment.

Thank you, Aysun, for giving me a beautiful apartment for three months. You made my days in Istanbul much better. But, my real gain is you, your friendship.

At the end of three months, my husband Al arrives in Turkey. After spending a few weeks in Bodrum, Ankara, and Istanbul, we go to Selimiye to visit Aysun for a day. She rents a very cute house close to her boutique store. Another wonderful college friend, Nurgun from our college joins us.

Selimiye, Near Marmaris, Mugla, Turkey

Selimiye, Near Marmaris, Mugla, Turkey

(Selimiye deserves a story of its own. So, I will do that separately. It is one of the most idyllic places on the Mediterranean where many Blue Voyage gulets visit. )

Aysun, Nurgun, Al and I put our bathing suits right after we arrive at Aysun’s house. Less than a minute walk, we are jumping off a dock into the bluest of the seas. Aysun says she kisses the sea every day and thanks it for giving such a great life to people. In between dips in the water, we eat stuffed mussels and drink ice cold beer. How much can it get better?

View from the 30-second walkway from Aysun's house to the sea

View from the 30-second walkway from Aysun’s house to the sea

We come back to Aysun’s house. I decide to enjoy my Mediterranean salt and opt for not taking a shower. Salty fish do not smell, I guess I am OK for a day.

Aysun's garden in Selimiye

Aysun’s garden in Selimiye

We take a stroll down the path along the beach towards Aysun’s store passing boats, pebble beaches, restaurants, and we arrive at Ayna. That is the name of Aysun’s exquisite boutique store. I know she has great taste. But, this exceeds my expectation. Everything is in the right place. Dresses adorned with beautiful hats, scarves, bags and jewelery are beckoning you. The minute you walk in, you know you are in a top quality store. I love it. While Aysun is attending her customers, Nurgun and I browse the store admiring everything. A gorgeous French lady buys a red scarf that looks and feels like a cloud and a beautiful hat to accessorize her black sleeveless dress.

Ayna store, Selimiye, Turkey

Ayna store, Selimiye, Turkey

Al points out a dress and tells me it will look great on me. I hesitate. Aysun and Nurgun later tell me that Al had circled around that dress many times while we browsed. So, Aysun brings me the dress and asks me to put it on. I love the full circle skirt that I can swirl around in. My dear friends, with their eyes, tell me that I should say yes to my husband’s desire to buy me this dress as my birthday present.

I walk out of Ayna with a shopping bag. And we go out to have a great dinner at the Sardunya Restaurant.


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